Employee data can be used for good purposes, but it needs to be treated with caution


Office life update

If you meet Kevin Ellis, the 58-year-old owner of PricewaterhouseCoopers in the UK, look at his right wrist.

On it, there will almost certainly be a fitness watch gadget that people can wear to see how fast their heartbeat is and whether they walk as much on Tuesday as they did on Monday.

In this case, it is a Garmin Vivosmart 4 Tracker and Ellis tie it to the bed, in the shower, and of course, when he trots to reach the goal of 600 minutes of “intensity minutes” exercise per week.

“The only time I took it off was for charging,” he said the other day, adding that he thought he had also been wearing these devices on most of the board of directors of the accounting group. “I did not ask the board to do this,” he said. “Everyone is just interested.”

Well, they may be, because Ellis’ Garmin is not exactly what it seems.

After the first Covid lockdown began, it was one of 1,000 fitness trackers that PricewaterhouseCoopers provided to its British employees last year to test algorithms that have few other algorithms.

Think of it as “Fitbit on steroids” and say Rob McCargo, PwC’s UK AI director. Unlike other digital “wearable devices” that only spit out numbers for users, Garmin data enters a platform jointly designed with PwC. Analysis of the International Hydrological Program, A company that works with Formula One racing and other elite sports organizations that are keen to improve performance.

The platform also obtains data from watch wearers’ timetables and work calendars, as well as the results of psychometric and cognitive tests. Once all of this is input through the algorithm, the system should allow each user to better understand their sleep patterns, stress levels and overall health.

McCargo said that personal data only applies to people wearing Garmin. But it is anonymous and organized to show managers the operation of the entire organization.

For example, it revealed that the company’s sedentary behavior increased by at least 25% after the lockdown began. (A smaller pilot before the pandemic made comparisons possible.) After the bar reopened, the level of stress on workers also declined and increased during the peak performance appraisal period, which may strengthen the distribution of workload more evenly throughout the year s hard work.

surprise? Maybe not. But as more and more companies experiment with mixed working methods, PwC believes that the demand for such tools will increase. These tools can check employee benefits in real time and see if subscriptions to meditation apps, for example, are really useful. Done.

“I can see customers see it as a way to attract employees,” said Ellis, who is keen to emphasize that watches are not mandatory. “We are not talking about some kind of Big Brother surveillance.” PricewaterhouseCoopers is criticize A facial recognition tool was developed last year that can track financial service personnel working from home. But its new system will expand. As many as 5,000 fitness watches will be launched soon, and strong demand is expected: employees snapped up last year’s 1,000 Garmin in less than four hours.

However, it is difficult to completely trust this platform. If deployed properly, workplace technology is not necessarily a bad thing. Large companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers are likely to use it to benefit their employees. But there is no guarantee that its customers will do so.A few days after my conversation with Kevin Ellis News broke A spyware made by an Israeli company that was supposed to fight terrorism was traced to the phone calls of dissidents and journalists.

In addition, the digital belt has been tightened tighter on some workers Recent report Known as the working age of Amazon. “The technology and tools of the gig economy have far surpassed the gig economy,” said a study by the UK’s Future Work Institute.

“The entire economy is using algorithmic systems to control basic aspects of work,” it warned, which undermined efforts to improve well-being. So far, supermarket workers and truck drivers bear the brunt. But the same is true for lawyers and accountants. The biggest risk they face may not be replaced by machines, but treated like machines.

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Twitter: @pilitaclark


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